Amnesty chaos

2013-10-04 00:00

DOWN at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall it seems that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

Residents who went rushing to the municipal offices this week to take advantage of the debt amnesty on their overdue accounts were told by the clerks that there was no such deal.

This, despite the fact that the municipality put out a press release on Monday advertising its debt amnesty, which was launched on September 1.

A clerk in the customer services hall at 333 Church Street asked resident Sol Ebrahim where he came up with such a “b***s**t story”.

When he said he read it in the newspaper, he was asked if he believed everything he read in newspapers. He was allegedly told he was making up the story to get out of paying his full debt.

Laetitia Vermaak said she went to the municipality twice to apply for the debt amnesty. On both occasions the women at accounts told her that the amnesty was not in place and that they were still waiting for management instructions.

Vermaak said she tried to send an

e-mail to the address in the article, but it was returned as being incorrect. She tried to phone the number given but got no response.

The Witness managed to get through to the number supplied by the municipality — 033 392 2707 — which was to the credit control section, and confirmed that this was the number residents could call for more information. The e-mail address supplied, however, was wrong and the correct e-mail to make enquiries is:

Asked why the clerks were in the dark on this offer, Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma said he would check with the Finance section. Zuma came back and said that staff had been notified but it seems that not all of them may have been present when the amnesty deal was explained.

He added that when the project was first introduced there were reports that the customer services staff had not been notified. The chief financial officer Nelly Ngcobo then reportedly sent out a detailed e-mail to all the staff explaining the background to the amnesty, and how they were to implement it.

The Msunduzi council took a decision at the end of August that as part of Pietermaritzburg’s 175th birthday celebrations it would launch a debt collection campaign. This involves offering a special amnesty to long-term debtors who have large amounts outstanding on their utility bills. Council is hoping to reduce the R1,4 billion on the city debtors book.

The offer is open to households with money owing for more than 120 days for water, electricity, sewerage, refuse collection or sundry debts. It does not apply to outstanding rates accounts. For every one rand the creditor pays, council will write off a rand on the outstanding account. However, only residents whose current monthly account has been paid in full can take part in the scheme.

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